The Hon. R.I. LUCAS (Leader of the Opposition): I want to speak about Mike Rann and, in particular, aspects of his political spin and his mastery of that area. I also want to talk about his propensity to claim anyone in public office as a close and dear friend of his of many years. Let me refer to some examples. In March of 2002, he said that David Suzuki was a very dear friend. In June 2002 he said:
“I met tonight with Glenda Jackson, an old friend. She’s promised to help.”
In June 2002, again about Glenda Jackson, now a Labor MP, he said, `Glenda has been helping me.’ Of course, in August 2002, it is Geoff Dixon: `The Head of Qantas, Geoff Dixon, who’s an old friend. . . we’re looking forward to making some progress today.’ Then in September 2002 it’s Natasha Stott Despoja: `. . . have friendships on all sides of poli¬tics. . . had lunch on Friday with Natasha Stott Despoja. . . old friend. . . knew her mum years ago when she was a journalist at the `Tiser.’
Then of course in November 2002: `. . . no I spoke with Basil [Scarsella]. . . he is an old friend [too]. . . I spoke with him just before I went.’ Then of course in September 2003 it’s Mark Bickley: `I’ve now got friends like Mark Bickley who plays for the Crows.’ Then in September 2003: `I was a press secretary for the last couple of years [for Don Dunstan] when he was Premier. . . then [he] became a [very] good friend.’ Again in September 2003: `. . . as you know Bob Carr is a close friend of mine and John Singleton I like very much.’
Then in November 2003 it’s Bryan Dawe: `Well what happened was that Bryan Dawe. . . he is an old friend of mine [too].’ Again in November 2003: `Bob Carr is probably my closest friend in politics. . . he’s always been one of my very closest personal friends.’ So he has special status. Then there’s Clare Martin: `. . . the Member for Fanny Bay is Clare Martin, who is my friend and the Chief Minister.’ Then there’s Dean Brown: `Dean Brown is a friend of mine and has been for many, many years.’ Then there’s Kate Fischer and Pru Goward: `. . . good old Kate, I’m a good friend of her mum Pru Goward.’
Then there’s John O’Neill: `I’ve written to John O’Neill, who’s a friend of mine, who is the new head of the Australian Soccer Association.’ Then there’s Rob Kerin: `Rob Kerin’s a friend of mine, and I like him a lot.’ Then there’s Peter Beattie: `Peter Beattie and I [are] actually very good friends, the Premier of Queensland. . . I’m looking forward to catching up with my good friend Peter Beattie.’ Then there’s John O’Neill again, and then there’s Ted Chapman: `I guess I knew him as a friend. I grew to become a very close friend of Ted’s.’
Mr President, when you are close friends with everyone, you have to remember with whom you say you are close friends, because in January 2004 he said this on Channel 9 about Mark Latham when he came to visit South Australia:
I have absolute confidence in Mark Latham, also in the fact that we can work together. We’ve known each other for many, many years.
The problem was that he forgot what he said back in 2003 in the earlier stages of the leadership contest. At that time, when he was asked what he knew about Mark Latham, he said: `. . . I don’t know Mark Latham very well at all.’ He said on 5DN: `I don’t actually know Mark Latham. . . I met him years and years ago when he was a staffer for Bob Carr.’ Of course, the following year when Mark Latham became the leader, what did he say on Channel 9? He said: `We’ve known each other for many, many years.’ So, somewhere between 2003 and 2004 he had gone from `I don’t actually know Mark Latham, I met him many, many years ago when he was a staffer for Bob Carr’, but once he became important and he was the leader of the opposition, he said, `I have absolute confidence in Mark Latham. . . in the fact that we can work together.’
The other area that has become legendary, of course, is his alleged close association with Tony Blair, the Labour leader in England. Eventually in 2004, one of the journalists asked the Premier: `What is your relationship with Tony Blair?’ At that stage, he had to confess: `Well, I have only ever met Tony Blair once.’ I summarise by saying that I think it is a sad fact and a further indication that our Premier, Mike Rann, is prepared to say almost anything when he is put in front of a television camera. Can I say, Mr President, if at any stage I am not here, if Mike Rann ever says publicly that he is an old friend of mine, it is bloody untrue!
The PRESIDENT: I think there is little chance of that occurring.